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Denton Teacher Motivates Students With the ‘STAAR Test Funk’

Kelli Hauser, a sixth-grade reading teacher at McMath Middle School in Denton, produced this shot-for-shot video parody of Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” ostensibly to motivate students to get excited about the STAAR standardized testing this week. Hauser has previously produced parodies of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” called “STAAR Force” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” called “TAKS Face,” so I suspect she may be doing it to live out a bit of her own American Idol-esque dreams too. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — she’s far from the only teacher to do so.

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How You Can Save Western Civilization by Reading True Grit

In April, we’re asking everyone to read Charles Portis’ True Grit as part of D Academy’s literacy nonprofit Big D Reads. D Academy fellows raised enough money to purchase 17,000 copies of the book and will be handing them out at more than 60 events during the month of April.

The fellows have spent the last few months talking about “grit.” One alumnus of the group, David Hopkins, recently shared his own thoughts on the word’s meaning:

I want to discuss a popular TV show my wife and I have been binge-watching on Netflix. It’s the story of a family man, a man of science, a genius who fell in with the wrong crowd. He slowly descends into madness and desperation, lead by his own egotism. With one mishap after another, he becomes a monster. I’m talking, of course, about Friends and its tragic hero, Ross Geller.

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R.I.P., The Broadcast

It began in February 2013, with Tim’s voiceover announcing “This is D TV” — or something like that. Tim liked the first show.

It ended last week with the final original episode of The Broadcast on local station KTXD. You’ll remember the progam was originally titled D: The Broadcast, but our company jumped ship in August 2013. After which time the name was truncated, and the hosts rotated.

Uncle Barky discusses some of the details of this failed experiment in local programming:

Former London Broadcasting chief operations officer Phil Hurley, who birthed both The Broadcast and The Texas Daily while running KTXD, said Monday that he hoped the station’s laid-off employees “quickly find another opportunity. They’re good people that worked hard.”

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The New Republic on What Makes Dallas World Aquarium Unique

Daryl Richardson is a high-end caterer turned zookeeper who opened Dallas World Aquarium in downtown’s West End in 1992. The New Republic‘s newly published deep dive on him and his menagerie shows how he eschews the normal model for zoos are run (not a nonprofit, unafraid to acquire any desirable animal from the wild), which has resulted in an international attraction for zoo aficionados.

But he also comes off as a hell of a hard man to work for, and some of his questionable practices have angered biologists and conservations. The article centers on the aftermath of Richardson’s failed 2013 attempt to get some rare sloths from Panama, an action that caused an international uproar:

Some zoo officials I spoke with were embarrassed by Richardson’s misadventure, but it does not seem to have caused much damage to his professional standing. In an image-sensitive industry, a rogue who collects and breeds exotic speciesanimals that can then be traded with more cautious zoos, at scant risk to their own budgets and reputationsplays a useful role. Last year, the AZA said it was looking into the pygmy-sloth controversy, but it never released any findings. It also renewed the Dallas World Aquarium’s accreditation last March, finding that Richardson’s zoo upheld the “practices and philosophies that are commonly accepted as the norm by the profession.”

“My story is really not that different than any other zoos that have their failures and their successes,” Richardson told me. “It’s just I happen to be the independent owner of this facility and I’ve been here for the duration, from day one to day now.”

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We Are Now Fully Living In An Idiocracy: Sex Box

Jarric Tucker and Taylor Bell will celebrate their second wedding anniversary this month. Like many couples, those first two years have had their trying moments. For one thing, Taylor struggled with body issues after she gave birth to their son. They’d argue sometimes, and Jarric would go sleep on the couch rather than talk it out. It happens. So the Dallas couple went on a new TV show to talk about those issues with a panel of three therapists and then, after that, they went into a soundproof cube and had sex. And then, immediately after that, they came back out and talked about what happened.

The show is straightforwardly titled Sex Box, and its guiding principle is that couples are at their most honest immediately following sex. Tucker and Bell say it helped them. Their episode will air Friday 9 p.m. on We TV. So that’s great. I wouldn’t have done it, but whatever. I wouldn’t do a lot of things, and I’m also divorced.

But if you were wondering if it would take 500 years to get to Idiocracy‘s predictions, the answer is: it might not take 50.

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Steve Martin Cast in Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Deadline is reporting that one of my personal heroes — seriously, if you’ve not read his memoir, Born Standing Up, you’re missing out — actor/comedian/banjo player/novelist Steve Martin has been cast in director Ang Lee’s film adaptation of Dallas author Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (one of the greatest novels of the 21st century.)

Unknown Joe Alwyn has already been cast as Iraq War soldier Billy Lynn. Thinking over the potential suitable parts for him in the book, Martin has got to be playing the owner of the Dallas Cowboys — the fictionalized Jerry Jones — right?  I suppose he could be the agent who’s trying to sell Lynn’s Army squad’s story to Hollywood, but I like that first possibility way more.

Deadline also says Garrett Hedlund is also in line for a role. Shooting is to begin in April. In Atlanta, Since Texas Stadium, where 90 percent or more of the story takes place, doesn’t exist here anymore, I guess that’s understandable. Even if Billy Lynn is maybe the best Dallas novel ever.

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Trammell Crow Visits D Magazine’s EarBurner Podcast, Episode 2

Not that Trammell Crow, the other one. Trammell S. Crow, the real estate scion and the force behind Earth Day Texas. He was good enough to bring his posse to the Old Monk to chat with Tim Rogers and Zac Crain about the event that’s planned for the last weekend of April in Fair Park.

But don’t hit the snooze button just yet. Crow is an odd duck who doesn’t fit into all the usual stereotypes of a Dallas rich guy. It’s a fun conversation, even if Tim neglects to introduce himself and Zac at the outset.

Before I leave you to it, a couple of corrections:

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Leading Off (2/23/2015)

North Texas Braced For A Taste Of East Coast Misery. Dallas ISD and many others are closed. DFW Airport has preemptively cancelled flights. Road crews have been out since 6 pm last night. Sleet forecasts have increased. Everybody stay safe.

DISD Over-Hires General Education Teachers, Causes Internal Panic. DISD started the school year off back in August with just 16 vacancies, something superintendent Mike Miles hailed as a triumph. Then, in October, executives, in a move that sounds just a tad like a usually trustworthy teenager asking to spend the night at a friend’s house in order to go to a party when they know it’s against the rules even though nothing bad will happen, asked the board to approve another $6.4 million to pay for 165 more school positions that included 137 more teachers. The reason they gave was unexpected student enrollment. Turns out, according to a pile of instant messages obtained by the News from September, DISD had actually hired too many teachers with general education certificates who couldn’t teach subjects like math, science, or a foreign language. Now the question is, was the board misled? My prediction is locked in Neil Patrick Harris’ briefcase.

New Maverick Amar’e Stoudemire Makes Impressive Debut. He scored 14 points in 11 minutes during Sunday night’s game. And the Mavs won, 92-81.

American Sniper Wins One Oscar. It was for sound editing. Taya Kyle was in attendance.

PSA: There’s A Chuck Jones Exhibit At The Fort Worth Museum Of Science And History. I caught this fantastic traveling exhibit when it was at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. I only just realized that it had traveled here. If ever in your life you derived joy from Bugs Bunny or Daffy or Roadrunner or Elmer Fudd, you must go. It’s a really wonderful look into Jones’ mind and talent.

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Listen to D Magazine’s New Podcast, EarBurner

As Tim teased yesterday, D Magazine has embarked upon a brave new era of audio entertainment. We’ve launched our new podcast, EarBurner, for your listening pleasure.

The first episode, which you can stream right now via the embedded player below, was recorded yesterday at the Old Monk. We viewed this session much the way you do the first pancake from a batch of batter: you know, the one you usually just have to throw out because it doesn’t come out right.

But I think we exceeded our own extremely low expectations, and your hosts Tim and Zac, and special guest Tara Nieuwesteeg, managed to produce a light and tasty confection that you shouldn’t have to drown in syrup to make edible.

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What a Squabble Over a Piece of Public Art Says About How Dallas Values Culture

Over on FrontRow today, I have a little ditty about the White Rock Water Theater (pictured), which the Cultural Affairs Commission voted last night to remove from White Rock Lake. I know some of you think the piece is an ugly piece of junk. It certainly was in need of some TLC (to the tune of $200,000, in fact, an amount equal to about half of all of what the city has to spend on public art). So, fair enough, get rid of it. Only what does it say about the city that we have a public art program that can’t be maintained, and how is that indicative of so much else that goes on in Dallas?

Peel away all of the rhetoric about Dallas’ supposed cultural ambition and desire to be considered a major art center, and the history of the Water Theater shows us that Dallas actually places very little value in nurturing and supporting art, artists, and artistic activity.

Here’s the full piece.

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FrontBurner Freebie: Two Tickets to Kitchen Dog Theater’s Hooch & Pooch Party

Imagine you are Kate, and I am Leo, and I am asking you from atop a gilded staircase if you want to go to a real party. This one does not include doomed third class passengers hooting along to an Irish polka, but it does feature fine company (theater people are fun), drinks (beer from Deschutes, vodka from Dripping Springs), and decidedly Titanic-era jams (the theme is a “’90s-style rave”).

But seriously, Kitchen Dog’s yearly fundraiser, Hooch & Pooch, is great. Which is why we here at D sponsor it. I went last year and had a blast. This year, I have a pair of tickets to give away. It’s this Saturday, Feb. 21, at 8 pm at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary. Go here to enter. The item you’re registering to win is Hooch & Pooch tickets.

I’ll pick and email the winner on Thursday at 5 pm, near, far, wherever you are. Except you should probably be near.

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